Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Worked & What Did Not 2017-18


I read on Instagram a post that talked about discussing the things that worked and didn't work from the year before, before you start planning your next year.  This really is honestly very good advice.  I tend to jump right in and get all organized and then when the time comes, I recall, oh yeah, we hated that... why did I schedule that in again?  Or why did we stop doing X, Y, or Z?  We loved that!

So with that in mind I decided to try and look bak at our last year and pick apart the things we did that worked and what didn't work.  My biggest take away from this exercise is that I know right now what didn't work... not working.  Burn out and battling the demon of depression, really took a toll on my last few years.  I know that this year that has to change.

So last year...

Math
Negatives:

  • I once again tried to change things with math.  We started using Teaching Textbooks again and quickly remembered why we stopped using them years ago.  All my kids start out excited about this nifty looking math program and quickly, for us, things fall apart and they start getting every problem wrong and it ends up being more work rather than the freeing thing I hoped it would be.  This also leads to starting a new math program in the middle of the year, or later, and math programs are NOT cheap.
Positives:
  • Although I have a love/hate relationship with Saxon, I have to admit it works.  So we are back on that train and while we are now about 3/4 a year behind, at least we are plugging a long.  When we finish the last year books, which we are doing two lessons in a day to catch up (when possible), we will go back to one lesson a day.
  • Theo did great with his math goals for the year.  I wanted him working on counting to 100 and being able to write the basic numbers.  He did this with ease.  He even started skip counting by 2s.

Grammar
Negatives:
  • Grammar?  We don't need no stinking grammar.  Mad Libs counts right?  Seriously, I tried to do some grammar things during morning time as a group and while this still sounds like a great idea it didn't really bear much fruit.  Also, see spelling.

Positives:
  • Mad Libs was great.  The kids did learn a lot.  I am not one of those people who think grammar needs to be visited every year, and some of it is just busy work.  But we will be doing more formal grammar next year.  Plus Mad Libs.  We love Mad Libs.  Download the app for ease!
Spelling

Negatives:
  • We tried something new by doing Brave Writer's Arrow program.  They had copywork and grammar lessons worked into your family read aloud.  I liked the idea behind the program, but I have to admit we only somewhat successfully did one book.  No one's spelling improved.  Even tried to make lists of words they misspelled.  It became a big mess, with sheets of paper everywhere.  It did not work for us, sadly.  

Positives:
  • I hate to say, I don't think there were much positives on this front.  Our spelling did not improve, in fact, it might have gotten worse from sheer neglect.

Reading

Negatives:
  • I think we honestly don't have much to complain about, other than wishing the older kids read more.

Positives:
  • While I love the Seton readers, it was hard for the kids with ADHD.  So I actually went back to a book I hated in the past, out of pure desperation.  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons works really well for them, even though it can be very tedious for me.  It really has been the only thing that has worked for them.  Ben is still doing the Seton readers and they are fabulous.

History

Negatives:
  • History has been a real struggle for the last few years.  It feels like a lot of times it is very boring or I read bad reviews, or too much work, or...  We did try Playful Pioneers, which we liked, but for some reason it just tapered off.  It really was for the little kids and there was nothing for the big kids.  This was just a big mess this year.  
  • I also, like an idiot, decided halfway through the year to clear off my shelves.  That I had too much curriculum that we simply did not use.  Yeah.  That was dumb.  I regret selling off the Mother of Divine Grace stuff, big time.  I was so sure I would never want to use it again.  Within in a few months, I was like... well, shoot.  Wish I had that to just use as a reference.

Positives:
  • We did do some great read alouds, from historical periods.  This was about the only "real" history we did.  And while I think that good literature is really an excellent history program, it was not organized enough to call it an actual program.  


Science

Negatives:
  • We tried to do the Real Science for Kids program.  I had successful done the Biology year awhile back and we learned a lot.  However, every other one we tried to do was a big fat failure.  This year was no exception.  
  • Middle school science was also a failure.  We struggled getting through the Physical science book.  Hopefully this year with dad home more, he can help in this area.

Positives:
  • We ended up giving up on The Real Science for Kids books and working on reading through The Solar System and doing coloring sheets.  This was great.  I also got a plant memory game which was amazing.  We had a lot of fun with that.  
  • We did some amazing nature walks this spring and summer.  I need to make that a priority during the time of year when hiking is at its best.
Religion

Negatives:
  • I decided to try something different this year and sell all our Faith and Life books.  That was stupid.  Do you see a pattern here?  We ended up doing nothing really.  Hardly even living the liturgical year.  I had plans of reading the lives of the saints and reviewing baltimore catechism a few times a week.  It didn't happen.

Positives:
  • I really can't think of any!  How terrible.  The kids did write a few saint reports, which is better than nothing.  I guess.  Ugh

Art

Negatives:
  • We really didn't do enough.

Positives:

Conclusion

I am actually kind of surprised by what I figured out.  Grateful that it looks like we did something, rather that the big nothing I thought we had done.  I also think it is important to note that most of our real learning took place between the pages of good and engaging books.  This furthers my suspicion that we are geared more towards a Charlotte Mason education.  I know that I will need to make up some real plans on my own, and stop relying on already written curriculum.  I either tend to sell it off too quickly or throw the baby out with the bathwater.  

So in planning for next year,  I will take into account the need for good books to help bolster up our history and science, not just dry textbooks.  Textbooks will be good for giving foundations only.  

I also need to take into account my husband's new work schedule and how he will be home several days a week and how they will be different days on different weeks.  This will make it hard to establish routine, but we have talked about this and plan on working on a routine that will work when he is home to help.

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